Appropriations Democrats Secure Amendments to Protect Migrant Children, Demand End to Family Separation
The House Appropriations Committee today adopted 12 Democratic amendments to protect migrant children separated from their families by President Donald Trump’s cruel family separation policy and to demand an end to family separation during markup of the fiscal year 2019 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill.
Despite these successes, House Republicans severely worsened the humanitarian situation for migrant children by adopting a partisan amendment to allow migrant children to be held in unlicensed family detention facilities for prolonged periods of time.
House Republicans also defeated several important child protection and government transparency measures advocated for by Democrats, including an amendment by Rep. Grace Meng to ensure the Trump administration complies with court orders to reunite children with their parents.
“President Trump’s family separation policy is a stain on our nation. Today we took a few good steps to improve conditions for children and families impacted by this cruel policy, but it still must be reversed in its entirety. Instead of doing so, Republicans’ added an amendment to allow migrant children to be held in unlicensed family detention facilities for prolonged periods of time,” House Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) said. “We must do more to end family separation and reunite children with their parents, not imprison families in perpetuity.”
“Today’s amendments aimed to reduce the damage caused by the Trump administration’s policy of government-sanctioned child abuse. By demanding HHS present Congress with their plan to reunify children with their families, requiring regular updates from HHS, ensuring siblings will no longer be separated, funding mental health services for these children, and much more, we have made real progress. But there is still much more work to be done,” Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said. “This is a crisis. These children are in cages, and we cannot ignore it. Congress must continue pushing this administration to act with a sense of urgency until every single child is reunited with their family. They cannot wait.”
The Appropriations Committee adopted the following Democratic amendments on family separation:
- Demanding the Department of Health and Human Services report to Congress on a plan to swiftly reunify separated families and withholding funding from the HHS Secretary until the plan is submitted (passed voice vote; offered by Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Nita Lowey and Henry Cuellar)
- Ensuring that siblings who have been separated from their parents are kept together (passed voice vote; offered by Reps. Chellie Pingree and Henry Cuellar)
- Preventing the forced medication of separated children without a medical assessment, including a trauma assessment (passed voice vote; offered by Reps. Katherine Clark and Betty McCollum)
- Expressing the sense of Congress that families should not be separated and that families should be reunited immediately (passed voice vote; offered by Rep. Mark Pocan)
- Requiring an Inspector General report on the implementation of the family separation policy, the Executive Order ending the policy, and ongoing reunification efforts (passed voice vote; offered by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz)
- Reaffirming the Department of Health and Human Services’ statutory and court-ordered responsibilities about the care of unaccompanied children (passed voice vote; offered by Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger)
- Funding mental health services for children separated from their parents (passed voice vote; offered by Rep. Rosa DeLauro)
- Prohibiting the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and its contractors from asking questions about religion and religious practices for purposes of family reunification (passed voice vote; offered by Rep. Katherine Clark)
- Requiring a report on the number of pre‐literate children in the custody of ORR, a list of languages spoken by those children, the number of translators needed for each language, and any additional resources needed to ensure children are able to communicate with staff (passed voice vote; offered by Rep. Katherine Clark)
- Directing ORR to ensure protection of DNA and other personal data and prohibits use for criminal or immigration enforcement (passed voice vote; offered by Reps. Marcy Kaptur and Katherine Clark)
- Mandating a report on guidance from ORR to shelters about the mental health needs of children separated from their parents, treatment resources available to them, and the average length of stay for separated children (passed voice vote; offered by Reps. Katherine Clark and Henry Cuellar)
- Requiring a monthly report on the number of separated children and additional details, including a plan for children and parents to remain contact and reunify (passed voice vote; offered by Reps. David Price, Nita Lowey, Henry Cuellar, and Katherine Clark)
Despite adopting 12 Democratic amendments intended to address family separation and reunite families, House Republicans adopted a partisan amendment that overrides the Flores settlement and allows migrant children to be held in unlicensed family detention facilities for prolonged periods of time. That amendment, offered by Rep. Tom Cole, passed 31-21.
In addition, House Republicans rejected four Democratic amendments that would have:
- Required the Trump administration to comply with court orders mandating reunification of children separated from their parents (failed 22-30; offered by Rep. Grace Meng)
- Prohibited the Department of Health and Human Services from sharing personally identifiable information of a sponsor or potential sponsor of an unaccompanied child with the Department of Homeland Security for immigration enforcement purposes (failed 20-29; offered by Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard)
- Provided $30 million to create a Family Case Management Program as an alternative to detention for asylum seekers (failed 22-29; offered by Rep. Barbara Lee)
- Prohibited additional large‐scale institutional shelter facilities for unaccompanied children and tent cities, while instructing the administration to prioritize community‐based residential placements and increase family reunification services (failed 22-30; offered by Rep. Jose Serrano)